French Fry, Candy Night

French Fry, Candy Night

While some families like to go caroling in their neighborhood, and others like to drive around their town looking at lights, we have “French Fry Candy Night” when we take our kids out for the evening, feed them junk food and pay them to do embarrassing things.

You might be wondering how such a silly tradition came to be. Grab a french fry and I’ll tell you.

It was a Sunday in December, 2000 and we’d had a rain storm all weekend.  The kids, aged 6, 7 and 9, were driving me and their dad bonkers; the fighting and the whining and the crying and the bickering. It had been a long weekend and we all needed to get out of the house.

We piled in the car and drove to Sonoma. By the time we arrived, the rain and wind had kicked up. We ran to the nearest business, a Mexican restaurant complete with a jukebox. Thrilled to be out of the house, we ordered a round of sodas for the kids and margaritas for the adults. We ate nachos, listened to music and watched Tori, the first grader, dance and sing. At 2:00 p.m. on a rainy Sunday, we had the place to ourselves.

After we wore out our welcome, we braved the weather and walked around the town until we came upon a candy store – a candy store you dream about going to as a child. We allowed each kid $5.00 to spend on whatever they wanted. It took 15 minutes for them to select their candy, followed by five luxurious minutes of quiet while they inhaled it.

We continued walking around the square, gazing at the holiday decorations and colorful lights and buying a few gifts before we realized we were hungry again. It was getting close to dinner time and I mentioned heading home to eat.

The sad and downtrodden looks on my stepkids’ faces were enough to make me rethink that idea. And I wasn’t particularly jumping up and down to go home and cook. Suddenly, it seemed like a much better idea to go to Murphy’s Irish Pub and order some french fries.

Midway through our three baskets of fries, Ryan said, “This was the best day ever. Nachos, candy and french fries: I wish we could eat like this everyday. Why can’t we?”

I launched into the 1001 reasons why a 7-year-old should not “eat like this everyday”, then I had an idea: Why not eat like this one day a year? I asked the kids if they would like that and their faces lit up. We planned on returning to do the very same thing the following December.

A family tradition was born that night and we named it “Nachos, French Fries and Candy Night” which was too wordy, so we shortened it to “French Fry Candy Night”.

December, 2006

We are on our 11th year of this tradition, having only missed it once last year, when we were feeling too bah humbuggish.

December, 2005. Those are not Kayla’s real teeth.

French Fry Candy Night has changed over the years. When the kids got a little older, we made them earn their candy money. We had Kayla, who wore braces at the time, put a chunk of cilantro on her front teeth and ask the hostess where the restroom was for a dollar.

For a couple of dollars, Tori danced around the walkway in front of Murphy’s for one minute singing, “Go Santa, Go Santa” and doing the old school hip-hop move known as ‘driving the bus’.

And we offered Ryan five big bucks to eat a slice of canned jalapeno but he never would. So, of course, we caved and bought him candy anyway. I mean, how can you deny candy to this boy?

This year, they are 17, 18, and 20. They’ll probably get bored with us and text their friends all night, but it will still be a fun evening. I look forward to one day having their spouses and children come along. And perhaps Bill’s kids will continue this odd tradition in their own families or create one of their own.

Family photo, 2005

We are having our French Fry, Candy Night soon…real soon. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it next week.

Do you have any unique family traditions?



  1. December 8, 2011 / 9:04 pm

    Oh, Adrienne….this post was just too precious. What great memories for a blended, or any, family to have . One tradition my belle fille and I had on our annual summer beach camping vacation was to go to the local pottery place and paint/make our souvenir together. I still have a plate and windchimes we did setting out in the family room. We would always go get lunch at the soda fountain in the local dimestore too. Sadly both places went out of business just as we were getting our traditions going. We also had the tradition of going downhill skiing over Xmas. Oh the memories…xo Bliss

  2. December 8, 2011 / 9:35 pm

    Adrienne, loved this. What a sweet story and tradition. Pictures were really cute. My boys would love this! Maybe we’ll have to start a new tradition…

    Those kids are lucky to have grown up with such a fun step-mama.:)

  3. December 8, 2011 / 10:07 pm

    This made me giggle–and it certainly a fantastic tradition to start! Happy Holidays, dear Adrienne!

  4. December 8, 2011 / 10:12 pm

    This is awesome! I absolutely love this!
    We don’t have any traditions yet in my little family but I’m working on it 🙂

  5. December 9, 2011 / 5:16 am

    What a wonderful story and tradition, Adrienne! I’ll be smiling today thinking about nachos and candy : >

  6. December 9, 2011 / 6:07 am

    What a wonderful tradition! This put a big ole smile on my face this morning. I’m sure the kids will have wonderful memories of these nights for the rest of their lives. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  7. December 9, 2011 / 6:14 am

    How much fun is that! What a great tradition!

    I dont think we have any…hmm…maybe I need to come up with something!

  8. December 9, 2011 / 7:12 am

    That is sooo funny; love it! What a fun family.

    xo —

  9. December 9, 2011 / 7:35 am

    I love how you’ve changed your blog header photo for Christmas! Our main tradition is the Santaland visit at Macy’s. So swamped, as usual, but I wanted to come by and say hello! XO, Jill

  10. December 9, 2011 / 7:35 am

    I just love this story and look at how easily your tradition got started. These are those memories that tug at our heart strings…
    what a fabulous way to start my day thank you!

  11. December 9, 2011 / 8:34 am

    What a great story and tradition to continue. The pictures are just so adorable!

    The only tradition we have had over the years actually involves my sister. Every Xmas eve for the last 20 years she and her husband have has hosted a party for our family and his. We always have the gift exchange where every brings a wrapped gift but you can steal from somebody else. Even though she moved to Idaho 2 years ago, they still come down for Xmas and have the party at her daughter’s house now.

    Another tradition (not a family one) is making homemade Almond Roca with my girlfriend to give to friends and neighbors. We have been doing it for probably 30 years. But now because so many people expect to receive some, I have to make a 2nd batch on my own!


  12. December 9, 2011 / 8:50 am

    @steppingmywaytobliss That is a lovely tradition – pottery painting and lunch. Too bad they both closed. Tori and I went to the Lake Tahoe area together one summer for a couple of days. We tried to make it an annual “girls” trip, but it didn’t catch on. She’s a busy girl.
    For me, it was extra special to create a family tradition since I was new to the family. It has helped in the bonding process over the years. I’m sure you know how important it is to bond with your stepchildren in order to have a strong relationship with them. xo

  13. December 9, 2011 / 8:54 am

    @kim at northerncalstyle. You’re sweet, Kim. Thank you. It was and still is not easy to be a stepparent. Luckily, I ended up with the best kids possible and a very supportive husband.

  14. December 9, 2011 / 8:55 am

    @Aesthetic Alterations So glad I could make you giggle 🙂 Thank you for stopping by! I hope you are having the time of your life in Paris. xoxo

  15. December 9, 2011 / 10:25 am

    What a fun tradition, love it! : )

  16. December 9, 2011 / 11:40 am

    Love this. You’ve given me some ideas. We actually may be heading to an Irish pub tomorrow night ourselves to get out of the house. Loved seeing the kids when they were younger.

  17. December 9, 2011 / 11:43 am

    @Sara Louise I’m sure you and The Husband will come up with something very original and very fun. xo

  18. December 9, 2011 / 11:46 am

    @Patti @ NotDeadYet Style Patti, So glad I could make you smile…it is such a fun way to unwind during the holidays. Not so great for the waistline, but terrific for your spirit.

  19. December 9, 2011 / 11:47 am

    @déjà pseu Happy to hear I could bring a smile to your face. I wish I had taken more photos over the years. It seems we only have 3 years worth out of the ten. I am most definitely bringing the camera this time.

  20. December 9, 2011 / 11:48 am

    @Suburban Princess I bet you could come up with something super fun for your family. If you do, please tell us what.

  21. December 9, 2011 / 11:49 am

    @LuxeBytes The best part about it is teasing the kids with photos from French Fry Candy Night’s past. Kayla was a little embarrassed that her cilantro teeth photo is now out there for the world to see – but she is a good sport and laughed about it (thankfully). xo

  22. December 9, 2011 / 11:51 am

    @jill815 I created that header last year and forgot all about it until I discovered it while looking for French Fry Candy pictures.

    I am sure you are overwhelming busy with your job and such…thanks for stopping by to say hi! xo

  23. December 9, 2011 / 11:54 am

    @hostess of the humble bungalow It was so easy. I think when they’re forced, they sometimes don’t work. Tori and I tried to start a girls weekend each summer and it never gelled. But French Fry Candy has stuck around and become a central holiday event. I’m glad you enjoyed our little story. xoxo

  24. December 9, 2011 / 11:56 am

    @LRS4AMANDA I love holiday White Elephant parties. We used to do that with my MIL and FIL years ago.

    That Almond Roca sounds fun, but laborious. I am sure you and your girlfriend have that recipe down after all these years. xo

  25. December 9, 2011 / 11:56 am Thank you, Jeannie. We think so too. I am very excited about our upcoming night out.

  26. December 9, 2011 / 11:57 am

    @Amy Thanks, Amy. It’s not very low carb friendly, but it’s only one night a year. I am actually really looking forward to eating some nachos 🙂

  27. December 9, 2011 / 11:59 am

    @Hines-Sight Great to hear! I hope you get a new family tradition started too. Aren’t Irish pubs fun? We named our dog after the one in Sonoma….Murphy.

    I miss the kids at that age. They were so fun and we were fun, too. It’ll be interesting to see how they’ve changed since our last French Fry Candy. It’s been two years…kids change a lot in that time.

  28. December 9, 2011 / 4:18 pm

    What a great story and a wonderful tradition…plus what sounds like a really fun evening!

  29. December 9, 2011 / 6:49 pm

    I loved this post! I read it earlier on my phone while waiting for my client to attend our meeting. At the end, she mentioned she wanted to do something with her children that didn’t involve buying stuff, and I said, “Hey, what about starting a French Fry Candy night,” and I proceeded to describe your family tradition. She thought it was a great idea, especially paying your children to do something like putting cilantro in their braces and asking for directions.

  30. December 2, 2017 / 4:00 pm

    Adrienne, So sweet. I remember reading about this so many years ago. I’m glad you are still keeping it up. Have fun!

  31. December 4, 2017 / 11:48 am

    So adorable, love this story !

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